Assistant Dean, Carnegie Mellon University
William Alba is the Assistant Dean for Diversity in the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also serves as Director of the Science and Humanities Scholars Program, Director of the Advanced Placement Early Admission Program, and Associate Teaching Professor of Chemistry. At CMU he is also Fellow of the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Faculty Affiliate of the Center for Arts in Society, and Chapter President of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
Prior to Carnegie Mellon, Alba served as an academic leader and professor at distinctive institutions, including Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, St. John's College (Santa Fe), the Monte Sol Writing Workshop, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, and Phillips Academy. He builds and enhances programs to support the academic, metacurricular, and residential lives of college and high-school students; develops and teaches courses across diverse disciplines; and collaborates on projects spanning the humanities, engineering, science, and design.
Alba has a long-standing interest in the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. Over the past decade he has worked with artists and designers in the campus Moon Arts Group, along with researchers at the MIT Media Lab (Earth Tapestry) and Sciencenter museum (Sagan Planet Walk). He is active in the METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) scholarly community, presenting at conferences such as SoCIA (Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology), NASA AbSciCon (Astrobiology Science Conference), HASATC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), International Space Arts Workshop, and ISDC (International Space Development Conference), in addition to public forums. He serves on the Advisory Council for METI International.
Currently Alba teaches a history of ideas seminar on the circle as viewed through the Western canon in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, physics, and literature, as well as a seminar for science students to develop as scholars, persons, professionals, and citizens. At Carnegie Mellon he also taught a course on technical, societal, and communication issues in energy, an independent study on Ancient Greek, and a course on the science and history of optics. He has previously taught the mathematics of biological and social phenomena, classical rhetoric and logic, the geometry of art and nature, the chemistry of food and cooking, utopias and dystopias, the rise of modernism, general chemistry, physical chemistry, calculus, and astronomy. At Carnegie Mellon and Bard, he developed and taught a course on time capsules and communicating with potential extraterrestrial intelligence, which confront similar challenges as the Arch Mission: how to convey information to the unknown, distant future.
Alba has a quarter-century of professional leadership across higher education and secondary education. His current focus in this area is the support of students across diverse backgrounds and perspectives, reflected by his interest in access and inclusion when preserving and disseminating knowledge.
He earned his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He resides with his family in Pittsburgh.